Mon, May 20, 2024

Best of Faith Friday: Real Life in a Digital World

Steve Swanson is the former station manager of 88.3 WAFJ radio station in North Augusta.

It’s a normal weekly thing now. During Sunday morning worship, as a part of a greeting or announcement, a staff member at church will acknowledge and welcome those who are joining the service for worship by watching online.

It wasn’t that long ago that watching a service online was a rare thing. Now, it’s a regular weekly event for many. It’s super convenient and super easy. Hey, you can even watch in your favorite jammies!

When we’re out of town, Susie and I will often engage with our church worship service online. We have connected and watched worship services in a car, at a hotel, and even cruising in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. To me, this is an excellent use of technology.

As thankful as we are to be able to access the service and participate in this way, we always prefer being physically present and being able to interact with others as part of our Sunday morning worship experience.

The whole idea of believers gathering for worship started back in the early days with followers of “The Way.” The early church gathered these elements we present. “All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s prayer) and to prayer. (Acts 2:42).

It’s interesting to see how prominent these elements still are as the church gathers for worship in 2024.

I read an article this week that illustrated the point this way. People born between 1997 and 2010- often referred to as “Gen Z”- spend an average of seven hours a day on their phone but, 79% of those in this age group say they struggle with loneliness. I have NO doubt that many in other age groups struggle with loneliness as well.

My theory and observation are that we have been created to be in relationships with others. Avatar interaction and moment-by-moment “shiny-happy-smiley” life updates on Instagram or Facebook are no real substitutes for in-person conversation, socialization, and human contact.

It seems obvious to me that it’s easier than ever to self-isolate and “cocoon” in our daily lives. I believe we do ourselves a disservice when we are not physically present. It works both ways. We miss out by not interacting with others and they in turn miss out because we aren’t there in person to contribute to conversations and relationships.

The writer of Hebrews put it this way, “Let us hold tight without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect out meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially not that the day of his return is drawing near.”  (Hebrews 10:23-25).

The Master’s Table at 702 Fenwick welcomes volunteers.

So, if I’m feeling lonely despite the connections I have through social media and texting, what should I do? Here are several ideas:

  • Initiate a lunch meeting. Call a friend and set up an in-person time to get caught up. If lunch doesn’t work, see about grabbing coffee. If it helps, set a start and end time when you make plans to help the other person with their schedule. Go ahead, do it now, I’ll wait!
  • Choose to attend worship in person this Sunday. I don’t think you need to make a sweeping resolution to be in church every week this year, just take it one week at a time. Go this week! When you do, choose to be friendly and welcoming. Others are tiptoeing into this experience as well. While it’d be easy to glide in at the last minute and leave in a rush, choose to allow yourself time to arrive a few minutes early and plan to stay for a few minutes afterwards. If you’re not sure where to go, try the coffee area. There are always folks hanging around there.
  • Many churches are doing two things as the New Year starts. They are beginning the year with an emphasis on prayer- Many calling it “21 Days of Prayer” and starting small groups. Groups that gather to learn, fellowship, grow spiritually, and enjoy one another’s company. It’s a grand time to get connected! Many churches can help you take your “next step.”
  • Be open to opportunities to meet others and encourage them along the way. I am confident that there are MANY people who are feeling lonely and isolated right now that could use your presence in their lives. Ask the Lord to lead you into opportunities for relationships and real friendships.
  • Check out the “Family Calendar” at wafj.com. You may be surprised at the number of area events and opportunities that exist in the CSRA to enjoy a concert, dancing, a lecture, or other small group type of learning opportunities.
  • Look for places to serve. The Master’s Table Soup Kitchen or Golden Harvest Food Bank are worthwhile places to invest some of your time and talent. I am sure animal shelters and thrift stores might be worth checking into as well. If you choose to serve, there are always places that could use a hand.
  • One more “radical” idea for you. Invite a neighbor over for dinner, or dessert, even once a month. So many people don’t even know their neighbors’ names. You have the chance to change that! You might find a fast friend by reaching out to those who are in closest proximity to you!

Yes, it is VERY easy these days to just sit at home and lament not having more friends or meaningful relationships in your life. The reality is that something must change to see change.

How about it? What is one thing you’re going to do to begin to build some relationships this week? Don’t settle for a superficial “digital life.” Choose to connect with others and experience the difference it will make in their life and in yours!

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